Speakers at WISE seminar urge political parties to restore next generation faith in democracy

LAHORE: “Democracy addresses the needs of all citizens and preserve their freedom and dignity while securing a sustainable future for generations to come. Constant elections on regular intervals within constitutional framework maintain people’s faith in democracy. With over 44 percent of new voters between the ages of 18 and 35, Pakistan’s youth will play an important role in the upcoming elections and influence the future of the country’s democracy.
These views were expressed by the speakers at a seminar “Safeguarding Democracy – Empowering Next Generation”, organized by Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) in connection with international Democracy Day, here Friday. A large number of women and young girls, students and civil society activists joined the event.
Speaking on this occasion, Executive Director WISE, Bushra Khaliq said concern over the future of democracy has become a global topic of conversation. the next generation involvement is crucial for democracy. Today's young people are dissatisfied with their democracies' performance. The political parties and institutions should encourage and ensure participation of youth in the political process. sustainability of local governance can help restore people’s trust in democracy, she observed.
Mr. Abdul Hafeez, Joint Provincial Election Commissioner, Punjab said ECP is fully aware of its constitutional responsibility and committed to perform our role under the law.  The reasons behind delay in local govt elections in Punjab was the multiple acts of legislation by the Punjab Assembly on local govt. during the last two years. ECP has reduced the gender gap in electoral roles from 12 % to 8%, he claimed.
Dr. Irum Khalid, Head of Political Science Department, Punjab University, said democracy is not mere exercise of elections, but a culture and social attitude based on respect of difference of opinion, diversity, inclusivity and rule of law. She stressed the need to transform the social attitudes to promote democracy. For next generation involvement in democratic and political process the ban on students’ union should be removed and political parties should encourage youth in their folds, she suggested adding that Constant elections on regular intervals within constitutional framework maintain people’s faith in democracy.
Shoaib Raza, representative of Punjab Local Government Department, said although local government is considered as the third tier of governance, but it is the first tier of democracy. It is the nursery of political leaders who steer the democratic process in any country. He said the previous provincial assembly devised four different Acts on local government, causing delay in LG polls in Punjab. The people should hold political parties accountable for the absence of local govt in Punjab, he observed.
Faiza Malik, former MPA from PPP, the health of democracy is linked with the continuity of the democratic process and inclusivity of the marginalized sections. Kanwal Liaqat, former MPA said women’s enhanced participation in political process is key to sustain democracy.
At panel discussion with Youth, the speakers including; Hira Nawaz Awan, Ahsan Kamray, Saba Abassi and Muneeza Burney expressed their concerns over the state of democracy in Pakistan.  They said today’s youth is disillusioned with the system. Youth enabling environment for political participation is absent. The political parties should take cognizance of the situation where next generation is losing faith in democracy. Youth should not be exploited to raise slogans for their leaders, rather be encouraged to meaningfully participate in the process, they opined.

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